After inaccurate reports about poorly parked bikes, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will penalize Jump and Lime by cutting the number of bikes allowed on city streets.
Users are unlikely to notice an immediate difference, though, because the companies are deploying far fewer bikes than the maximum the city allows.
The department cut the total number of bikes each company is allowed by 1,000, SDOT informed the companies in letters earlier this month. Jump and Lime will now be allowed to deploy about 5,700 bikes each. Today, the companies are deploying only about 5,000 bikes total.
The companies are not being dinged for poorly parked bikes, but for related reporting inconsistencies.
SDOT identified instances in April in which the agency was aware of public complaints about misparked bikes but the companies did not report those issues to SDOT. In some instances, Jump also failed to report how long it took the company to move improperly parked bikes, according to SDOT. More reporting problems could result in another 1,000-bike cut for each company, SDOT wrote.
“This is about their customer-service responsiveness and our ability to trust the data that comes in,” said SDOT spokesman Ethan Bergerson.
Uber’s bike service, Jump, “had a problem with our issue tracking system which led to resolution times not being recorded in many cases during March and April,” Uber spokesman Nathan Hambley said in a statement.
“The issue was resolved in late April” and reported to the city, Hambley said. “For May, all reported incidents were responded to, and we are on track for June as well. We remain committed to meeting the city’s response time requirements for any improperly parked bike reports we receive.”
Seattle requires the companies to move misparked bikes within two, four or 24 hours depending on the problem and when the report comes in.
Jonathan Hopkins, Lime’s director of strategic development in the Northwest, said in a statement, “We continue to work with the city and other partners to improve education about reliable parking options and compliance throughout the city.”
Jump and Lime have come under scrutiny in Seattle in recent months as people who are blind or use wheelchairs raised concerns about the hazards of misparked bikes. Early SDOT audits found that 14% of the free-floating bikes were parked in a way that could create an obstacle to people with disabilities, including blocking curb ramps and private pathways or leaning against buildings.
In permitting the companies, Seattle imposes certain parking rules but recently broadened its definition of what constitutes an obstacle. The cuts to the bike fleets are the first penalty since free-floating bike-share arrived in Seattle in 2017, according to SDOT.
Anna Zivarts, the program director at Rooted in Rights, said the group hopes the penalty pushes the companies to take bike parking more seriously. Zivarts has urged SDOT to expand bike parking in the street, rather than on the sidewalk.
It remains to be seen whether — and for how long — Jump and Lime will continue to expand their bike services in Seattle or whether they will eventually attempt to transition to scooters, which have largely replaced bikes in other cities. A third company that received a city permit to rent bikes, Lyft, still has not launched in Seattle.
Jump currently deploys about 2,000 bikes in Seattle and plans to increase to about 4,000 later this summer, according to Hambley.
“Bike share offers lots of opportunities and we want the program to work for everybody from those who bike, walk, roll, as well as for customer responsiveness,” SDOT spokeswoman Dawn Schellenberg said in a statement. “Our action establishes there are real consequences to incomplete or inaccurate reports for parking complaints and encourages resolution.”